What we found in the Jersey Valley watershed through lake and stream sampling

What we found in the Jersey Valley watershed through lake and stream sampling

For seven years UW Discovery Farms monitored water quality in the Jersey Valley watershed. Monitoring, beyond traditional monitoring stations, was included in the project to incorporate more data and to see what kind of assessment the water system might receive. Staff took lake and stream monitoring trainings, used by volunteer monitoring programs in order to learn proper protocols. Calculations were performed based on our interpretation of the assessment methods used.  

 The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) makes assessments using the “Wisconsin 2014 Consolidated Assessment and Listing Methodology” (WisCALM). This was developed by the WDNR to assess stream and lake conditions in Wisconsin. WisCALM assessments of individual streams and lakes can be used to determine if a water body is “impaired”.

Discovery Farms staff used its understanding of the WisCALM methodology to get a sense of the waters' condition from an assessment approach which would provide insight on the health of the Jersey Valley Lake and the West Fork Kickapoo River.

Jersey Valley Lake Monitoring
From 2011 through 2017, the Jersey Valley Lake was monitored using Citizen Lake Monitoring Network (CLMN) protocols. The CLMN is a lake monitoring effort performed by trained volunteers. Figure 1 shows total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a levels measured during this time period. Results, from the most recent 5 years of data, were compared to the WisCALM criteria for general conditions, fish and aquatic life (FAL) and recreational uses (Rec). Under the general conditions assessment, the lake measured in the “fair” category. Under FAL assessment, the lake met the criteria and would be considered “not impaired”. This was true for both total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a. However, Rec assessment suggests the lake is “impaired”. The total phosphorus value was above the impairment threshold which is a more strict value than used in the fish and aquatic life assessment.

Figure 1. All total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a measurements from Jersey Valley Lake with medians.

West Fork Kickapoo River Stream Monitoring
From 2014 through 2017, the West Fork of the Kickapoo River was monitored monthly according to the Water Action Volunteer (WAV) stream monitoring protocols. WAV is a statewide stream monitoring effort performed by trained volunteers. Two sites (1 & 2) were located upstream of Jersey Valley Lake and two were located below (3 & 4). We used a biotic index which is a metric that uses aquatic insects and other invertebrate presence to categorize the health of a particular section of stream. The makeup of these in-stream communities indicate long term effects of stream health because different species have different tolerances to pollution. The average score of sites 1 and 2, both upstream of the lake were “good” (figure 2). The average score of site 4 which was farthest downstream of the lake was “fair” while site  3 nearest to the lake was “poor” (figure 2). The “poor” site is likely the result of its proximity to the lake and the elevated levels of phosphorus coming from the lake.
Grab samples were also taken for total phosphorus analysis using WAV methodology at all four stream sites. With these samples, we used WisCALM to get an idea of an assessment value. All sites met the criteria and were “not impaired”. As an extra step, the biotic index for WisCALM was used on one site each above and below the lake. This index is a more involved process than the WAV method and was performed by the Aquatic Biomonitoring Lab at UW-Stevens Point. The upstream site scored just under the “good” threshold in the fair category while the downstream site scored in the “good” category.

Figure 2. All WAV biotic index calues with averages. Sites 1-4 shown, health categories are highlighted. 

Adding monitoring that used different assessment tools helped gain a better understanding of the water in the Jersey Valley watershed. The WisCALM total phosphorus and chlorophyll-a assessment values we found would say the lake may be hovering around the “impaired” threshold and the stream sections would be categorized as “not impaired” in the period monitored by UW Discovery Farms. Recent flooding in the Jersey Valley watershed had drastic visual impacts on the Jersey Valley Lake and surrounding streams. The Jersey Valley water system may not be the perfect system, but it is, at minimum, a fair system. The Jersey Valley community cares deeply about the area they live in and the stream and lake play a big role. There is no doubt this community will continue to strive for improvement. Simple methods can be great tools to monitor stream and lake quality. §